Still selfish and parochial politics has not robbed the ordinary beings of all positive virtues of life essential to forge consensus among the competing interests and build common ground for the smooth functioning of democratic society. This scribe was taken aback when the term ‘morality’ was in the greater emphasis of majority of respondents at an interactive function held in Lahan.
Themed with ‘civic education and implementation of federalism,’ the programme pulled the crowd of grassroots people – elected representatives of local units, cadres of different political parties, social activists, teachers and intellectuals, among others. To start the ball rolling, the attending participants were asked to answer a question: What led to the decay and decadence of politics at present? They offered varied answers. Majority of them suggested that the pervasive political decay is largely caused by lack of morality in the political leadership. This answer was stunning as it demonstrated how conventional wisdom guides the common folks despite the diabolic ethno-centric politics that swept the Madhes hinterland in recent the past.
Some others cited the absence of civic education and political consciousness while others mentioned corruption and incompetent leadership as the main factors behind underdevelopment and ineffective delivery of public goods and services in the country. Of them, one or two activists from Madhes-based parties pitched for amendment to the constitution. Around 90 per cent participants were of Madhesi origin and these people had demonstrated political sagacity and maturity. They vastly differed from the Madhesi leaders who often resorted to bellicose rhetoric and tantrums. It is here worth mentioning that Lahan, lying on the east-west highway, was the epicentre of Madhes movement that had also pitted one ethnic group against another. As a result, many of hill-origin people were displaced from the central Terai for security reason. But now peace and normalcy has been restored and the people from different ethnicities live in harmony in booming town.
The grassroots gathering served as an interface between the elected representatives and conscious citizens. Many criticised the attending mayors, vice mayors and ward chairs for indulging in posts, perks, facilities and luxuries at the cost of state’s coffers. What was more striking was the rational and middle-of-the-road approach that the participants tended to follow. They laid emphasis on universal values of democracy that transcend small identities, communalism and regionalism. Though they may not represent the entire Terai, their views are worth emulating at the national level where the major parties have been divided on the partisan lines and vested interest.
It is imperative that the centre should take steps to minimise conflicts with the government of Province 2. The government of Province 2 has developed tendency to disobey the centre and resorted to provocative actions. This sort of anarchy must end to ensure that federal system operates smoothly, effectively and autonomously. Our constitution has envisaged a cooperative federalism based on mutual coordination and collaboration among the federal, provincial and local governments. The three tiers of government must embrace this spirit of federalism. At the same time, the Oli government must not drag its feet when it comes to safeguarding national interest, sovereignty, territorial integrity and social harmony.